PCOS and Pregnancy: Can you have a baby if you have PCOS?

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, is a common issue that affects millions of women around the globe. It is a leading cause of female infertility and there can be multiple reasons for it. Hormones, environmental factors, genetics, all play a role in causing PCOS. 

What is PCOS?

Eggs develop in fluid-filled sacs inside the ovaries. When the eggs are mature, the sac containing it breaks open and releases it. This is ovulation. PCOS hampers ovulation. In case of a woman with PCOS, there is a higher level of the male hormone androgen that doesn’t allow the sacs to break open for ovulation. This causes periods to be irregular or even absent. The sacs containing fluid then remain in the ovaries as cysts, severely impacting fertility.

Symptoms of PCOS

Symptoms of PCOS may vary from woman to woman, but the underlying signs are the same. You may have PCOS if you have irregular or missed periods over the last few months, combined with other issues like weight gain, excessive growth of body hair, thinning of hair on your head, fatigue, acne, pelvic pain, and severe headaches, among others. 

Diagnosis of PCOS

There is no one test for PCOS. Diagnosis is done based on physical manifestation of symptoms and a series of lab tests to check hormone levels and blood sugar levels. An ultrasonography might also be used to check for the presence of cysts or fluid-filled sacs inside your ovaries. 

Cure for PCOS

There is no cure for PCOS. Symptoms arising from PCOS can be treated, and simple lifestyle changes can help with better management of PCOS

Pregnancy & PCOS

PCOS hampers ovulation, as we have already mentioned. This means that the egg is not released and this means that there is no egg to fertilise. Therefore, conceiving becomes difficult, making PCOS a major cause of female infertility. 

However, it is not entirely difficult for women with PCOS to conceive. Your doctor will prescribe a number of medicines that can help control the hormone and blood sugar levels in your body so your ovary is able to release the egg. 

In some cases, the doctor might suggest an ovarian drilling. It sounds scary, but the process isn’t complicated at all. The doctor simply inserts a needle into the ovary to destroy a part of the ovary to lower the androgens produced here. 

PCOS Pregnancy Complications

PCOS causes a number of complications that are not present in women without PCOS. Early miscarriage is one of the biggest complications. Other problems include gestational diabetes (that only happens during pregnancy), prenatal depression, pre-eclempsia (a sudden increase of blood pressure and swelling), thickening of the endometrium, pre-term labour and a C-Section delivery. Some women with PCOS are also at risk of developing heart issues. 

Care Recommended During Pregnancy

Women with PCOS need to take more care of themselves when they are pregnant. 

Blood sugar: Check with your doctor about the recommended levels of blood sugar during pregnancy. It is important to check your blood sugar levels multiple times during the day to ensure you are not going past the recommended mark. Ideally, women with PCOS, when pregnant, should check their blood sugar levels before meals, an hour or two after meals, at bedtime and during the night. 

If you already had diabetes and were insulin dependent, chances are the doctor will recommend you to continue using the pump. Otherwise, other ways of managing insulin might be discussed. 

Nutritional therapy is also very important for pregnant women with PCOS. The idea is to get the right nutrients without eating anything that can aggravate the gestational diabetes. You could speak to a dietician about what you can eat and what you should avoid to make sure your weight gain is healthy while your diabetes is in check. Also, you might want to have small, filling meals every few hours instead of large meals at long intervals. 

Your folic acid intake will be increased as well to a level the doctor thinks fit. You might need to continue having folic acid even when you are breastfeeding. Your doctor will be able to guide you about the other prenatal vitamins you need. 

Pregnant women with PCOS are considered high-risk obstetric patients and should be monitored very carefully. Please make sure you take ample care and do exactly as the doctor says both during pregnancy and post-delivery. With care and close monitoring, having a baby won’t be a a very stressful experience even when you have PCOS. 

Feature Image Source: Shutterstock

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